To be honest, I feared another Old Trafford-like drubbing at the hands of Spurs today. I couldn’t see us conceding less than three goals and was sure Emmanuel Adebayor would continue his good record of scoring in North London derbies, this time for the enemy.
In the end what we got was arguably more depressing; a pretty even game in which the better side edged it through just doing the simple things properly. Arsenal, on the other hand, could not capitalise on a decent performance due to the same old silly mistakes and a lack of discipline at the back.
It was disappointing, as ever, to see Arsene Wenger continue to show faith to his favourite players over the confident and improving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. You just knew the likes of Arshavin and Walcott were never going to make an impact, and while I know we all get a bit sick of youngsters getting played too often, if a clearly talented player is making progress, then let him continue, and show faith in him. Being in and out of the team just when he’s finding form isn’t going to do him much good.
Anyway, the team that played had some good spells. Sadly we could not get enough good service to Robin van Persie, which I’ve spoken about before, and when he fashioned an opening on the left hand side, the so far useless Gervinho scuffed an easy chance wide. There was always the feeling that we would regret missing that one.
When the punishment came, it wasn’t without controversy. We don’t get a lot of favours from referees, but the positioning of Gibbs and Sagna on this goal is the biggest worry and is the kind of thing that will continue to haunt us as long as Wenger is in charge. Yes van der Vaart used his arm to control the ball, and yes he probably should have been sent off for running into the crowd (a stupid rule, but a rule nevertheless), but what difference does it make? Even at 0-0 against ten men we would’ve found some way of gifting them goals.
As we did on the second: Arteta, who had his least effective game for us so far, stood and watched as Sandro jogged away from him and got on the end of a throw-in; his cross found Modric, who shot against a defender, before it came out to Kyle Walker to rifle home a great strike past Szczesny. Blame on the goalkeeper in this case might be a bit harsh as the ball swerved a great deal, and the poor defending in the build-up is a far bigger worry again.
In between those goals for Spurs was a well-worked tap-in for Aaron Ramsey, who was otherwise very poor. He’s obviously getting too many games due to Wilshere’s absence and it’s a lot to expect of him to replace Fabregas after only coming back from a long-term injury earlier this year. He is a decent goalscorer and under a different manager he could play more of a Gerrard or Lampard role for the team and not have to pass so much, which he isn’t particularly great at. Still, under Wenger everyone has to be a playmaker.
Will this game have much significance as the season goes on? Hopefully not. I’m still hoping for a strong run of form to start sooner or later, much like Liverpool last season, who were in a similar, if not worse, situation to us this time last year. Obviously the lift of a new manager helped them out. Hint hint.
Will Spurs finally finish above us in the league this year? I wouldn’t be that surprised, but given that the media have been waiting for it to happen for about six years, I wouldn’t count on it too quickly either.